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Being Intentionally Single

July 23, 2o23

      I think that the primal need to find romantic connection is simultaneously one of the biggest blessings and biggest curses of the human experience. I was in third grade when I had my first ‘boyfriend’, who I met at cub scouts. He was cool, a bit of a bad boy, and a year older than me. We never kissed or anything, probably never even acted as more than friends, but let me tell you- it was exhilarating. I can't recall much about the experience other than feeling awesome about it. I remember in 2nd grade, when I got a special secret valentine from a boy. To this day I don't even know who gave it to me, but I still have my suspicions. I remember being in 5th grade math class, secretly passing notes to my friend about the boy I had a crush on. We dated for a handful of weeks, but I swiftly broke up with him when I found out he possibly had a crush on another girl. Pre break up, I went to Florida and made my Mom take pictures of me on her camera, so excited to print them and show him. 

      In 9th grade, I had my first kiss. I don't feel the need to get into details, but it felt like life began. I was cool enough, pretty enough, to be wanted. In the first true years of teenage-hood, I had ‘things’ with a few guys, kissed others, and crushed hard. By the end of the 11th grade, I got my first real boyfriend. By the end of the 12th, he broke my fucking heart. Messy at its best moments, and traumatic at its worst, I did experience the terrible first boyfriend trope. Nowadays, I know it made me stronger. But the thing about first loves, and first heartbreaks, is that you don't want to give it up. What if he's the one? What if nobody will love me again? We learn to hold onto love, no matter how painful, because the thought of being alone again can feel extremely overwhelming, especially when we are young. So for about 7 months after our irreversible breakup, I still had my first boyfriend in my life. By this point, I had started university, and we were fighting with each other tooth and nail. Day and night. Eventually, I was done, sick of being treated like garbage and ready to fully accept that my life would be way better without him in it. Hurrah! 

      But what is also true about first love, is that after you lose it, you want it again with someone else. Someone better. Someone who will actually see you (hopefully, as long as you play your cards right). So, naturally, probably not even a week after kicking he who shall not be named to the curb, I downloaded Tinder. It didn't take long for me to find a new romantic interest. Meeting him cemented my ride on a journey of confusion, many dissected text messages, long conversations concerning what-the-hell I should do, and yearning. We never dated, but to this day I don't think i've connected with someone as deeply as I did with him. I'll put my ego aside and say I kind of really loved him.

      What happened in our time together was both our faults. When we first started seeing each other, I was playing the cool girl game. Hard. Still hurting from my last relationship on many levels, I made it my mission to be carefree, casual, indifferent even. Don't be fooled, I had major feelings for him, but I was too scared of him rejecting actual commitment to let my guard down, not realizing until we talked about it almost 2 years later that me doing that also scared him off. So, we hung out casually, and honestly, even though we never dated, I have to give him a lot of credit for being the first boy to be truly nice to me. That was healing in a lot of ways. He gave me the space to regain the confidence my first relationship snuffed out. 

      We eventually got sent home from university early in first year due to COVID, and that really was the beginning of the end. To make a long story short, I eventually admitted my feelings to him in the summer after second year, and we decided we would try our hand at being together when we both moved back for third year. September came and he ended it. Which, I respect him for. No matter how strong mine or his feelings were, our relationship would not have been a good one. What was already a rocky and communication poor situation, would have turned worse, and into horrible, ugly heartbreak for me. I used to like to imagine that by the end of it, I would never be able to speak about him as nicely as I just did. Also, I feel that it's important to note that in being fully over him now, I deeply value that he taught me to look for signs that someone just isn't quite ready or right for you, that that's okay, and that I am valuable enough on my own to not only demand more, but to walk away sooner. 

      Still though, at the time, him ending it was very sad for me. So, how do you cope when someone you have wanted for years decides it’s not going to work? Again, you start dating other people of course! And that I did. I took a break for a couple of weeks and then got strait back into the game, dating two different people back to back. My end goal was a relationship, and they were both extremely annoying people in the end. Nice guys for sure, but after one simply love bombed me, and the other put up a front that they were looking for more, when in reality they weren't ready for commitment (at least with me), I was at my wits end. For sure I have had other periods of taking breaks from guys, yet looking back, not really. I would declare singleness for 2 weeks, get lonely, and re-download Tinder and Bumble. I would see my friends talking to boys, or getting in relationships, and feel as though I should be doing the same. In a lot of ways, I wanted to be a part of the party that is entertaining university age guys. Because the whole time I was infatuated with the guy I met in first year, there were periods where we really didn't talk that much, and I was constantly trying to meet someone else who actually would. It was never ending. Realistically, boys were all consuming to me, and for my friends. 

      Because it's not really the act of trying to find a boyfriend per se, that's so addicting. It's the urge to be wanted. To fill the void that can be present without romantic love. It's the want to perform for the male gaze (which I am trying to learn not to). Casually or not. So this time, when I said I was at my wits end, I meant it. I. was. done. No more dating apps, dates, casual hook ups, situationships, looking for guys at bars- nothing. My emotional availability was at about a -20. 

      What's so funny about this looking back is that I have always been someone who loves to do things alone. And I have honestly never completely derived my self worth from romantic relationships. Did I want love? Of course. But do I believe that two people come together to make a whole? Absolutely not. As true as this is for me, I still needed a complete break. A little over a year later, when I can feel my emotional availability creeping back up on me, I think I'm figuring out why. 

      It really all boils down to insecurity. Who do I become when I don't have a constant stream of validation from men on dating apps? In real life? As girls, we know deep down that in our early 20’s most situationships just aren't worth it- he's not going to truly fall for you. But it's the what if. The second that we get over cooties and start noticing boys, a lot of what we want as women is to be chosen and valued. We are taught subtly or not, that this is our reason for being. Which sucks. So it's not just that I needed to truly spend time figuring myself out, and truly heal from my past relationships, it's that I needed to feel what it felt like to finally find security wholly within myself. 

      Because since I became an adult, my head has been constantly filled with questions. What do I like to do? Who do I want to be? Do I like who I see in the mirror? Yes, you can have a certain level of self exploration while in a relationship or in the dating scene, but it's really not the same. It's about giving yourself space to exist, space to just have fun. I want to spend 2 days straight reading and not texting anyone? I can do that. I want to not worry about if you like me, or are texting me back as quick as yesterday? Happily gave it up. I want to focus on my female friendships, and not having conversations constantly surrounded by boy updates? Yes please! 

      All in all, my journey of being intentionally single has not been a perfect one, or one that was always happy. True self confidence and security doesn't come overnight, and I am still figuring it out day by day. There were many times that I doubted myself, my self worth, and in all honesty my appearance. It's very hard to give up validation, and I still have a lot to learn. But what I do know, is that currently, I have never felt more beautiful, or more like myself. I don't need boys to need me, because I have me. I don't need to be chosen, because my life is well rounded and I have goals too big to care. When I eventually get back into dating, or get into a relationship, I will never again put up with any less than what I deserve. I will no longer be the disinterested cool girl, I will be the self assured and okay with vulnerability girl. What makes my life worth living to the fullest isn't to be seen by others, but to see myself, my value, and the things I can accomplish, internally and outwardly, when I push myself.

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